In a surprise move, on Friday David Eisenhauer pleaded no contest to murder, kidnapping, and concealing a dead body charges in connection to the murder of Nicole Lovell. The plea came after three days of testimony in what was planned to be a 10 day trial.
Within 30 minutes of that plea, the court found David Eisenhauer guilty of all charges in the murder of Nicole Lovell.
Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, hugged prosecutor Mary Pettitt after the proceedings.
A plea of no contest means a defendant acknowledges there’s enough evidence to convict him, but doesn’t admit he committed the crime. The plea has the same effect as a guilty plea. Sentencing is scheduled for May.
The judge told Eisenhauer he faces up to life, plus 15 years.
A short press conference was held after Eisenhauer was found guilty on all charges.
I was blessed to be Nicole’s mother, to be her friend for 13 years” Tammy Weeks, Lovell's mother told reporters as she choked back tears. “We fought every fight together... She was a great and beautiful girl.”
After Eisenhauer entered his pleas, Pettitt told reporters she is glad the case has been resolved, but said the justice system is “incapable of healing this loss for Nicole’s family, Nicole’s friends or the community.”
We all suffer with the loss of this little girl,” Pettitt said. “I do hope that we have been able to do the best that the justice system can do to provide some resolution and some justice.”
Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson said Eisenhauer’s plea does not mean anyone won the case. Truly, if we had won, we wouldn’t be in this room and Nicole would be at Blacksburg Middle School where she belongs,” Wilson said.
At the opening of Eisenhauer’s murder trial on Tuesday, February 6, his attorney, John Lichtenstein, tried to shift the jury’s focus to his friend and alleged accomplice, Natalie Keepers.
Eisenhauer is accused of making a secret date” with Nicole Lovell in 2016 after meeting the teen through Kik, an instant messaging app.
On Jan. 27, 2016, Eisenhauer stabbed Nicole 14 times and cut her throat because he was worried his relationship with the underage girl would be exposed, prosecutors said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said the two had been communicating through social media for months and had met at least once.
He has a problem and his problem is Nicole Lovell, she said. He’s decided that this relationship with an underage girl is a problem”
Pettitt said Eisenhauer had been researching ways to kill someone for weeks before Lovell disappeared, using computer searches that included: 'How long does it take to burn a body?' and 'What is used to ID a body?'
Several days before Lovell was killed, Eisenhauer had talked with Keepers about switching out Nicole’s medication with cyanide capsules, Pettitt said.
But Eisenhauer’s attorney sought to blame Keepers, who has been charged as an accessory and is scheduled to go on trial in September. Keepers told police she helped plan the girl’s death and helped clean up her body afterward, but insisted she was not present during the killing.
Lichtenstein told the jury that, gradually, over the course of 20 hours of police questioning, Keepers admitted she helped plan the killing, helped clean Nicole’s body and helped dump her body just over the state line in North Carolina. He said the one thing she could not admit was that “she was at the scene of this murder.”
Jurors were also shown a video of an FBI interrogation in which Eisenhauer acknowledges seeing Nicole the night she disappeared.
The Medical Examiner, Dr. Gayle Suzuki, who conducted Lovell's autopsy testified on the first day of trial that she died from a stab wound to the neck.
Suzuki also testifed that her injuries were not consistent with falling on a stick, because a lot of the wounds have sharp edges. She testified that the injuries with Lovell's broken vertebrae are consistent with Lovell being alive at the time of that injury.
Prosecutors called several law enforcement officials Wednesday to testify about evidence they found, including a blood-stained shovel and a large blood stain inside the trunk of Eisehnhauer’s car.
On Thursday, prosecutors called more law enforcement officials and detectives to testify, showing surveillance footage of Eisenhauer and Keepers buying and then walking out of a Walmart in Christiansburg with a shovel.
Blacksburg Police Sergeant Kale Craver was also called to the stand Thursday to testify about a dumpster he searched at Virginia Tech, where he said he found several wads of napkins or wipes with reddish-brown marks on them and cleaning wipes, with the same reddish-brown markings on them.
Updates to this story can be found at ABC 13